PASTOR, REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH,
SECOND MIAMI CONGREGATION,
NORTHWOOD, LOGAN COUNTY, OHIO.
[Written ca. 1864.]
The circumstances of the Church at the present time imperatively call for a re-exhibition of her former principles and practice respecting military associations, and other unitive confederacies with the wicked and profane, the known enemies of truth and godliness. Practical questions of an important character have recently arisen, demanding immediate solution. Is it lawful for members of the witnessing Church to enter such associations, or is it unlawful? Is it consistent with the faithful exhibition of a testimony for the whole truth, or is it inconsistent?
The various and contradictory answers returned to the honest inquirer after duty in the premises, tend in themselves only to bewilder and confound, and render obvious the necessity of the injunction, “Cease from man.” “To the law and to the testimony: If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” These questions must be submitted to the tribunal of God’s word for final decision. But important aid maybe obtained by studying the history of the church, and marking well the footsteps of the flock. “If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock.”
We propose to interrogate the witnessing Church as to the position she has taken up and occupied during the two past centuries on this great question of military associations, etc., with the ungodly. Pursuing this line of inquiry we find that, until a very recent period, with one voice, and with no uncertain utterance, she unqualifiedly condemns and earnestly testifies against them.
In proof of this we refer:
1. To the Solemn League and Covenant.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland interpreted the war against England, known in history as the Engagement, as a violation of all the six Articles of the Solemn League. The Engagement was an enterprise undertaken for the purpose of assisting King Charles in his efforts to regain possession of the English throne. The Royalist party in Scotland engaged to raise an army for this end; and his Majesty engaged, on his part, to confirm Presbyterian Church Government for three years, * * to effectually suppress schism, heresy, etc. The Engagers, many of them, pretended and professed their undertaking to be for the furthering of reformation; for establishing and securing the Covenanted religion from the plottings and endeavors of Popish, Prelatic, and Malignant enemies, and for prosecuting the ends of the Covenant. (See Hind Let Loose, page 718, and Act Gen. Ass., July 27, 1649.) But, penetrating and exposing all their disguises, the reformers denounced it as a violation of their Covenant. (See Act of Ass., July last, 1648.)
The same course of argument which led them to such an application of the Covenant, will conduct us to the conclusion that all military associations with the ungodly—especially when an unlawful end is contemplated—is equally a violation of that Covenant, on the part of all who profess still to hold themselves bound by it. All the articles of that Covenant, except the fifth, are as really and as extensively broken by Reformed Presbyterians who now enlist and bear arms in the military service of the United States, as they were by the Engagers of 1648.
It would occupy too much space to take up the different Articles of the Covenant, and show, in detail, how they are all, with the single exception specified above, violated by the Covenanter to-day, who bears arms under, and makes common cause with, the United States in their present struggle. We ask every Covenanter who has any regard for his renowned ancestors, and for the truth of God now assailed, to give the language and principles of this Covenant an earnest and candid consideration, and make the application for himself.
Is it not plain, for instance, beyond all reasonable controversy, that the third Article of the Covenant is thus violated? There is, there, a pledge “to preserve and defend the King’s Majesty’s person and authority.” But the General Assembly, and the Reformers, uniformly and repeatedly affirm that this is to be understood “as joined with, and in subordination to” the clause immediately following, viz.: “in the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the Kingdoms.” Hence, as is manifest both from their writings and their practice, they held themselves bound, by this Article of the Covenant, to refuse to acknowledge or defend any authority not pledged to preserve and defend the true religion, as well as the liberties of the Kingdoms. The honor and interest of Christ were held paramount to those of man.
The present war in the United States is waged for the avowed purpose of establishing and perpetuating a system of Government, which we, in our Standing Testimony, have declared to be not the ordinance of God. And so far from the authorities here being pledged to the preservation and defense of the true religion, it is firmly guarantied in the fundamental law of the land, that no favor shall ever be shown to the religion of Jesus Christ. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
To take up arms for the establishment, perpetuation and defense of such a system is a palpable and flagrant violation of this third Article of our Solemn League. And so of the other Articles; but we have not here space to make the application.
In the acknowledgment of sins, and engagement to duties, connected with the renewal of the Solemn League and Covenant in 1648, we find this sin of associating with malignants, in armies and otherwise, distinctly confessed and mourned over. The Covenanters there say: “Our own conscience within, and God’s judgment upon us without, do convince us of the manifold willful renewed breaches of that Article which concerneth the discovery and punishment of malignants,” (i.e., persons who refused to take the Covenants,) “whose crimes have not only been connived at, but dispensed with and pardoned, and themselves received into intimate fellowship with ourselves, and entrusted with our counsels, admitted into our parliaments, and put in places of honor and authority for managing the public affairs of the kingdom: whereby, in God’s justice, they got at last into their hands the whole power and strength of the kingdom, both in judicatories and armies? And after mentioning their deliverance from the ascendancy of these parties, by the defeat of the Engagement, they add: “And after all that has come to pass unto us because of this our trespass; and after that grace hath been showed unto us from the Lord our God, by breaking these men’s yoke from off our necks, and putting us again into a capacity to act for the good of religion, our own safety, and the peace and safety of this kingdom, should we again break this commandment and covenant, by joining once more with the people of these abominations, and taking into our bosom those serpents, which had formerly stung us almost unto death; this, as it would argue great madness and folly upon our part, so no doubt, if it be not avoided, will provoke the Lord against us, to consume us until there be no remnant nor escaping in the land.”
The association, or fellowship, which they here deplore, is the same in principle, and not one whit more objectionable, than military association with the United States at the present time.
Again: “Albeit we be the Lord’s people, engaged to him in a solemn way, yet to this day we have not made it our study, that judicatories and armies should consist of, and places of power and trust be filled with, men of a blameless and Christian conversation, and of known integrity, approven fidelity, affection, and zeal unto the cause of God: but not only those who have been neutral and indifferent, but disaffected and malignant, and others who have been profane and scandalous, have been entrusted, etc.” * * “And because it is needful for those who find mercy, not only to confess, but also to forsake their sin; therefore, that the reality and sincerity of our repentance may appear, we do resolve and solemnly engage ourselves before the Lord, carefully to avoid for the time to come all these offences, whereof we have now made solemn public acknowledgment, and all the snares and temptations which tend thereunto.”
When, at the period of the Revolution settlement, some, who waxed weary of Christ’s yoke and were beginning to feel the odium of singularity intolerable, proposed to their more faithful brethren the drawing up of a bond of association in order that others might join with them, and they with others, their noble reply, which might serve as a watch-word for Covenanters at the present time, was: “Our Covenants are our bonds of association; and such as will not adhere to these, we will not join with them.”
In all our intercourse with churches and nations, when invited and solicited to propose terms of agreement, or a basis for mutual co-operation, we, as true Covenanters, should ever present the Covenants of our fathers. These should be our ultimatum: and distinct intimation given to friend and foe alike, that we still adhere to these in their true spirit and import, in all their length and breadth; that we demand nothing more, and, by the grace of God, will accept nothing less. And we have seen that the Solemn League and Covenant, which we have been more particularly considering, both in its letter and spirit, emphatically condemns and forbids military, and other unitive confederacies with the known enemies of truth and godliness.
2. For further proof, we refer to Act of General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, July 25,1648, Session 14. In reply to a paper from the civil authorities, in which it was intimated to the Assembly that they might “be satisfied in point of the security of religion according to the Covenant, notwithstanding the present Engagement in war,” they say: “It was represented to the high and honorable court of Parliament, that for securing of religion it was necessary that the Popish, Prelatical, and Malignant party be declared enemies to the cause upon the one hand, as well as Sectaries on the other; and that all associations, either in forces or counsels, with the former as well as the latter, be avoided.” The Sectaries referred to were the English Independents, led at the time by [Oliver] Cromwell. These proposed to themselves other ends than those contemplated by the Covenant: and the doctrine of the Assembly, as expressed in the above extract, is, that it is unlawful, wicked, sinful to associate, either in counsel or arms, with them, as well as with Malignants, and other known enemies of truth.
3. Act of Assembly, July last, 1648. In this Act, the Assembly having spoken of the Engagement, and the outrages committed by the armies of the Engagers, say: “And it is not to be marveled that such insolences have been committed, since there hath been admitted upon this service, some papists, some bloody Irish rebels, some non-Covenanters, and very many fugitives from Kirk discipline. Finally, even those who have been upon the late rebellion: And these not only common soldiers, but commanders; besides many volunteers who have no special command and trust.” * * * “The wars of God’s people are called the wars of the Lord.—Num. 21:14; 2 Chron. 20:15. And if our eating and drinking, much more our engaging in war must be for God, and for his glory.—1 Cor. 10:31. Whatsoever we do in word or deed, we are commanded to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, and so for his glory.—Col. 3:17. The Kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof is to be sought in the first place, and before all other things.—Matt. 6:33, * * * And if God’s glory be intended, what meaneth the employing and protecting in this army so many blasphemers, persecutors of piety, disturbers of divine worship, and others guilty of notorious and crying sins.” * * * “Suppose the ends of the Engagement to be good, (which they are not,) yet the means and ways of persecution are unlawful, because there is no equal avoiding of rocks on both hands; but a joining with Malignants to suppress Sectaries, a joining hands with a black devil to beat a white devil. They are bad physicians who would so cure our disease as to breed another as evil, or worse. That there is in the present Engagement a confederacy and association in war with such of the English, who, according to the Solemn League and Covenant, and declarations of both Kingdoms, 1643, can be no otherwise looked upon but as Malignants and enemies of reformation and the cause of God, is now made so evident before sun and moon, that we suppose none will deny it. And ‘tis no less undeniable that not only many known Malignants, but divers who joined in the late rebellion within this Kingdom, are employed, yea, put into places of trust. All which, how contrary ‘tis to the word of God, no man can be ignorant who will attentively search the Scriptures; for we find therein condemned confederacies and associations with the enemies of true religion, whether Canaanites,—Ex. 23:32 and 24:12,15; Deut 7:2; or other heathens, 1 Kings 2:1,2. Such was Asa’s covenant with Benhadad,—2 Chron. 16:1-10; Ahaz’s confederacy with the King of Assyria,—2 Kings, 16:7,10; 2 Chron. 28:16-23; or whether the association was with wicked men of the seed of Abraham, as Jehoshaphat’s with Ahab,—2 Chron. 18:2, compared with chapter 19:2. Also his association with Ahaziah,—2 Chron., 20:35; and Amaziah’s associating to himself 100,000 of the ten tribes when God was not with them.—2 Chron. 25:7-10. The sin and danger of such associations may further appear from Isai. 8:12,15; Jer. 2:18; Ps. 106:35; Hos. 5:13, and 7:8 and 2 Cor. 6:14,15. And if we should esteem God’s enemies to be our enemies, and hate them with perfect hatred, Ps. 189:21, how can we join with them as confederates and associates, etc.?”
Having in this same Act shown in detail how the first five Articles of the Solemn League were broken by the Engagement, they add: “The sixth is also manifestly broken; for we are thereby obliged to assist and defend all those who entered into this League and Covenant, in maintaining and pursuing thereof: whereas the army now entered into England is to assist and defend many who have not entered into that League and Covenant.” And exhort the friends of the Covenant, “That they suffer not themselves to be abused with fair pretences and professions usual in the mouths of those that carry on this design, and often published in their papers. But remember that the foulest actions have not wanted specious pretenses: and if they who killed the Apostles did both pretend and intend to do God good service, what marvel that they who engage against the Covenant, pretend to engage for it.”
4. Act of Assembly, July 20, 1649, Sess. 19.
“The General Assembly, considering what great offence against God, and scandal to his people at home and abroad, hath arisen from the late unlawful Engagement in war against England; whereby, contrary to the laws of God and of Nations, contrary to the Solemn League and Covenant, contrary to the petitions of almost the whole kingdom, contrary to the declarations of the judicatories of this Kirk, contrary to the protestations of a considerable part of the Parliament, contrary to the frequent and clear warnings of the servants of God in his name, not only are associations in counsels and arms made with malignant persons, who had formerly shewn their disaffection to the Covenant and cause, but an invasion of the neighbor nation was prosecuted, etc.” It is here emphatically affirmed that Associations in Counsels and Arms with malignant persons, i.e., persons disaffected to the Covenant and cause of Christ, are contrary to the law of God, the Solemn League and Covenant, and the declarations of the judicatories of the Kirk of Scotland.
5. Act of Assembly, July 27, 1649, Sess. 27.
They say, “Our army is not yet sufficiently purged, but there be still in it malignant and scandalous men, whose fidelity and constancy, as it is much to be doubted, so is the wrath of the Lord to be feared, upon their proceedings and undertakings, without a speedy and effectual remedy.”
Again: “And it is unto us a sure word of promise, that whosoever shall associate themselves, or take counsel together, or gird themselves, against God and his work, shall be broken in pieces. It is not only joining in arms with the Malignant party, that all these who would keep their integrity hath need to beware of, but also subtle devices and designs that are prompted by fair pretexts and persuasions to draw men to dispense at least with some part of their necessary desires that are propounded to his Majestie for securing of religion, etc.”
Speaking of the Parliament, the Assembly says, “It is not long since they, together with the rest of the land, made solemn public confession of compliance with Malignants, carnal confidence, following of self-interests, and hearkening to the counsels of flesh and blood, and did in a special way engage themselves to comply, and seek themselves and their own things no more, to abandon the counsels of their own hearts, and not to rely upon the arm of flesh, and to purge judicatories and armies from profane and scandalous persons: and God forbid that they should so soon forget or neglect so necessary duties, and fall again into so great and grievous transgressions.” * * * *
“As the Parliament have begun, so we hope they will continue, to purge out all those from trust that are not of known integrity and affection to the cause of God, and of a blameless and Christian conversation; and that they and the officers of the army in their respective places, will seriously mind, and speedily and resolutely go about the removing from the army all malignant, scandalous persons, and also the removing of Sectaries when any shall be found therein, that they may give real evidence that they did not deal deceitfully with God, in the day that they engaged themselves thereto.”
These extracts from the deeds of the Church of Scotland, in what has always been known as “the purest times,” and at the period of her highest attainment, are at once explicit and emphatic. It is thus rendered plain and undeniable, that military associations with malignant, propane, or scandalous persons—with the haters of the Lord—with the known enemies of truth and godliness, were, by those venerable Assemblies, composed of the most learned, pious, and faithful men, condemned and denounced as contrary alike to the law of God, the Solemn League and Covenant, and the declarations of the Kirk’s judicatories. And all this, be it observed, even though the end contemplated by such associations might be good and right: how much more, then, when the association is for the purpose of engaging in an enterprise in itself unlawful and wrong.
We are quite aware that, in the present day, these sentiments have become very unpopular. They are regarded as antiquated; and those who profess to be the followers and proper representatives of the Church that more than two centuries ago embraced and avowed them, yea more, insisted on them as important truth, are now ashamed of them. Attempts made in the witnessing Church to revive and reaffirm these principles, now that they have become practical, and emphatically the present truth, may be, as they have been, met on the floor of Synod with the sneer of contempt, or with bursts of derisive laughter. They may be characterized as “green,” yes, “jolly green.” But certainly we will hold our principles with a very feeble grasp, if we suffer ourselves to be ridiculed out of our convictions. The peculiar truths for which the witnesses are specially called upon to contend, have always been in disrepute; and none more bitterly opposed than by some of those who have professed to be numbered among the witnesses. They have ever been regarded by the great and wise of this world as superlatively ridiculous. And it is no new thing for the humble, feeble it may be, but faithful advocates of unwelcome truth, to have it to say, “Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.” Despite all ridicule, and derision, and contempt, and scorn, the principles set forth in the above quotation from Acts of the Church of Scotland, are nevertheless at the present time highly and practically important; and more and better, are the truth of God’s word. And however foolish they may appear to men, the issue will shew that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.”
6. The Commission of the General Assembly, 1650, with others at Edinburgh, Oct., 1651.
In the paper issued by them entitled, “Causes of the Lord’s Wrath Against Scotland, etc.,” Article 9, Step 4, we find the following language:
“The fourth step is, the neglecting and condemning the purging of judicatories, and the army, in the year 1649, and afterwards, from scandalous and disaffected men, and of constituting the same of men of known integrity and affection to the cause, and of a blameless and Christian conversation. That it was a duty so to have constituted and purged the judicatories and armies ought in reason to be questioned by none, it being a duty held forth in the word of God.” * * * “When the host goeth forth against their enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.—Deut. 23:9.” Therefore were they that were unclean by leprosy, by an issue, and by the dead, to be put out of the camp. “Command the Children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whatsoever is defiled by the dead.”—Num. 5:2. “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together: Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woolen and linen, together.”—Deut. 22:10,11. “Because the Lord their God did walk in the midst of the camp of his people, to deliver them, and to give up his enemies before them, therefore was the camp to be holy, that he might see no unclean thing in them, and turn away from them.”—Deut. 23:14.
“And because this nation had exceedingly neglected the purging of judicatories and armies, and constituting the same of persons rightly qualified, which was the cause of many of sin and punishment; therefore was this neglect publicly and solemnly confessed to God, and the contrary duty engaged unto, at the renewing of the Covenant towards the end of the year 1648, as is to be seen in the solemn public confession of sins, and. engagement to duties.”
Again, Step 7: “The seventh is the public resolutions of Kirk and State, for bringing in the Malignant party first to the army, and then to the judicatories, and the actual intrusting of them with the power of the kingdom, both military and civil. We conceive that these public resolutions in the complex of them, besides other sins which may be mentioned, include these: First. A conjunction with the enemies of God and his cause, which is condemned by many clear scriptures. 2 Chron. 19:1,2. “And Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem. And Jehu, the son of Hanani the seer, went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, Shouldst thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath on thee from before the Lord.” They quote also, in this connection, “Isai. 30:7,3, and 31:1-3; Jer. 2:18, and 13:21.”
It may be proper to inquire here, what were the “public resolutions” referred to in the above quotation? And what was the principle involved in the controversy that arose between the resolutioners and protesters? In the year 1649, after the suppression of the attempt known as the Engagement, the Parliament of Scotland passed an Act, called the Act of Classes, on account of its classifying the characters not to be admitted into places of honor and trust. After the defeat of the Scottish army by Cromwell at Dunbar, in 1650, this defeat and the necessity of increasing the army to meet the advance of Cromwell, was made the occasion for asking the consent of the General Assembly to the repeal of the Act of Classes. It was granted; and men of all professions in religion, and all varieties of character, were thus admitted into the army. Those opposed to this repeal were styled protesters—those in favor, resolutioners: and thus arose a controversy which rent asunder the Church, and broke completely the strength of the Kingdom. Now what was the principle involved in this controversy? It will be observed that all, resolutioners and protesters alike, were agreed as to the propriety of resisting the invader, Cromwell. They were entirely as one as to the lawfulness of the enterprise in which the army was to engage. The whole difference was as to the means to be employed in the attainment of a confessedly lawful and worthy end. The resolutioners held, that in such an emergency, all “fencible [defensible] persons”—the profane and scandalous—men of every religion and of no religion, might be admitted into the army. The protesters insisted that to admit such persons into the army was contrary to the word of God, the Solemn League and Covenant, and the acts of the Church in the days of her glory; and instead of forming any real accession of strength, would in the end prove their weakness and their ruin. The result is known. The resolutioners, by the protesters at the time, and by the Covenanted Church ever since, were held to be sadly and very culpably unfaithful: and too late, when the deplorable consequences were seen, their error was confessed by some of the better resolutioners themselves.
Again, Step 8. “The next step is, the joining of many of the people, (who are engaged with God by covenant to the contrary, no less than the rulers,) with the forces of the Kingdom; after that by the resolutions there was a prevailing party of Malignants brought to the army, who had the strength of counsels and actings therein, and were carrying on a malignant interest. Whatever question there may be of the associating of subjects in war with the wicked enemies of God, on the command of the magistrate in a lawful cause, which seems to us to be condemned in the people of God, Isai. 8:11-18, as well as in the magistrates; the ground of the prohibition, viz., learning of their works, and the ensnaring of the people, having a more immediate connection with the people’s joining, than with the magistrates commanding them to join: yet as the thing is laid down in the paper, we think there will be no question about it, etc.”
Thus it appears that the doctrine of the Church at this period was, that the people, even though commanded by the magistrates, might not associate in war with the wicked enemies of God; no, not even in a lawful cause. Upon this principle it must be sinful for our people to associate in war with the ungodly armies of this ungodly nation, even though the end contemplated were strictly lawful and proper; much more, when the end contemplated is the establishment and perpetuation of a wicked system that is in rebellion against Christ.
7. The declaration and practice of the Covenanters in 1685.
The Earl of Argyle had, on the most frivolous pretexts, been brought to trial for treason, under the administration of Scottish affairs by James, Duke of York, the brother and Viceroy of King Charles II: He was convicted and sentenced to death, but escaped to the continent. He found in Holland many other Scottish exiles, who had been driven from their homes under the tyranny of Charles. Upon the death of Charles, and accession of his brother James, an avowed papist, these exiles organized an expedition for a descent upon Scotland, Argyle being the leader of the enterprise. The undertaking was declared to be “for the purpose of recovering the religion, rights and liberties of the Kingdom from the usurpation of James, Duke of York, and a popish faction.” Still, with this expedition, the society people, the true Covenanters of Scotland, refused to unite; assigning the following reasons:
“With the Earl of Argyle’s expedition we were much pressed to concur: and several embodied with us were drawn away with the importunity of some ministers, and others of that association. Yet we could not join with them, nor espouse their declaration as the state of our quarrel, because it was not concerted according to the ancient plea of the Scottish Covenanters in defence of our reformation, expressly, according to our Covenant’s National and Solemn League, of which they made no mention in their declaration, nor of Presbyterial government, which was of purpose, lest the Sectarians should be irritated: and because it opened a door for a confederacy with Sectarians and Malignants, of which Malignants they had some among them guilty of shedding our blood at Ayrs-Moss.”
8. The testimony of the Covenanters in 1687.
See their Informatory Vindication. This Informatory Vindication was adopted and agreed upon by the Societies met in general correspondence. These general correspondence meetings were organized in 1681, to preserve, in those times of persecution, a communication among the members scattered over the country.
They there say: “We declare our testimony against all the steps of defection, declining from, or contradictory unto the covenanted reformation of the Church of Scotland: And therefore we disown, as inconsistent with our ancestors’ testimony, that promiscuous association in the late expedition, 1685; and all associations and confederacies whatsoever, with Sectaries and Malignants; and any other thing that opens a door for their introduction or toleration, or whereby the state of the quarrel is not proposed according to the ancient plea, against both right and left hand opposites.”
9. Their testimony against complying ministers, 1687.
They say: “We must testify against these great defections of many ministers”: among which they specify this, “The concurring and joining of some with such confederacies and associations as did open a door for the introduction both of Malignants and Sectaries, contrary to our covenant engagements.”
And speaking of ministers from whom they considered themselves justified in withdrawing, they say: “Such ministers are these who have been silent about the abounding sins and snares of the time, forbidden in the Scriptures, condemned by the acts of our General Assembly, and engaged against by our Covenants; who, forgetting the holy bonds of our Covenants, have desisted from pursuing the ends thereof; who have not maintained the received principles of the Church of Scotland, nor followed approved and laudable practices in ministerial duties; who have refused and denied their concurrence with the more faithful, in asserting this Church’s testimony; who, instead of asserting the ancient and honest plea of the Scottish Covenanters against both Sectaries and Malignants, in defense of the reformation and Presbyterial government, according to our Covenants, National and Solemn League, have taken the patrociny of, and concurred with, sinful associations, whereby the state of the Lord’s cause is altered and perverted, and a door opened to the introduction of Sectaries and Malignants, which our worthy reformers many ways opposed, as may be seen by their proceedings, letters and warnings; and particularly in the declaration of the General Assembly, July last, 1648, Seas. 21, concerning the dangers of religion, etc. We find already what hurt we have incurred, by favoring and in-bringing of Malignants; and if we shall continue so to do, or begin in end to introduce Sectaries, what may we expect but utter consumption from the Holy One? We look upon the bonds of our Covenants to be so morally obliging, that the solving of conditional ties, such as the relation between magistrate and people, will not be a sufficient salvo for laying them aside. Though we may explain and add unto them, yet by no means do we judge it lawful to state our quarrel, in associations, and by open declaration, upon another basis.”
10. The declaration and testimony of those who remained faithful at the Revolution Settlement.
For long years prior to the accession of William and Mary those faithful Covenanters had experienced the most cruel and relentless persecution; their blood had been shed like water on the moors and mountains, on the scaffold and at the stake. Most intensely anxious were they for the overthrow of the monster who was making the most desperate efforts for their extermination. Eager however as they were for his downfall, they would resort to no unlawful means for the attainment of so desirable an end. The Prince of Orange emitted his declaration, proclaiming the grounds of his appearance for the deliverance of the Kingdom. To the genuine Covenanters it was by no means satisfactory. They perceived at once that though he intended to wrest the sceptre from the hands of the tyrant James, yet it was far from his design to establish such a government as was demanded by their Covenants. Considering the ultimate object in view, and the character of the parties, a mixed multitude, engaged in the enterprise, they could not take part in the conflict. True, their Ministers, Shields, Linning, and Boyd, false-hearted and unfaithful, but still pretending the utmost zeal for, and attachment to, the Covenants and cause of Christ, deceived some of them, and led them into military associations with the ungodly of those times. To aid William, the Prince of Orange, they even raised a regiment of their own, called the Angus or Cameronian Regiment. With regard to their ministers, the influences brought to bear upon them, and the measures in which they were thus induced to participate, we find them saying: “About the beginning of the year 1689, these three ministers, Messrs. Shields, Linning, and Boyd, having had, unknown to us, their private conferences with the indulged ministers in and about Glasgow, in order to the adjusting the differences that were betwixt them, wheedled us over into a belief, under plausible like pretexts, that their zeal to the Covenants was the same as formerly, etc.” * * *
“That summer, 1689, under the conduct of William Cleland, Lieutenant Colonel to Angus, according to the 23d Act of the Convention of Estates, levied a regiment of the suffering remnant; which compliance of theirs, therein, was contrary to their former principles and professions, in complying with a malignant interest, as they had been taught by their ministers when faithful. Yet notwithstanding, at this juncture, these three ministers chided us into a compliance and conjunction with the Malignant party, before that there was any evidences given of their abandoning, mourning over, and laying aside of their former practices, as they had been destructive to the cause and people of God. Which piece of defection was too easily complied with by those of our number, who were for worldly gain and eminence; and yet nevertheless it was testified against by some.”
“That same summer, 1689, the North being in an uproar, by the 4th Act of the Convention of Estates, the South and West being commanded to rendezvous, many of our brethren kept up rendezvousing days with the late persecuting gentry, little to some’s comfort, who, espying the evil thereof, witnessed against it both then and afterwards.” Further they use this language: “Then their ministers hurried a considerable party of the professors of the West into a conjunction with those who had lately pursued us, and shed our brethren’s blood, viz.: in guarding the Convention of Estates, which was afterwards bewailed by many, when they came to see the evil of it.”
We might introduce here the individual testimonies of many of the sufferers during these twenty-eight long years of persecution, from the Restoration to the Revolution. We will, however, at present, do no more than make this allusion to them. The times in which they lived were days of darkness and blood, when, under sanction of the Royal brothers, Charles and James, the Covenanters were hunted like wild beasts, and shot down at sight, or seized and reserved for a more terrible doom. These men, who “counted not their lives dear unto them, so that they might finish their course with joy,” we find, whenever speaking on this subject, uniformly testifying against compliance or association with Malignants, Papists, Sectarians, etc., either in arms or counsels: and utterly repudiating the pretended and usurped authority of these who, by the Scriptures and their Covenants, were unqualified to bear rule. When arrested and confronted by their persecutors, the questions put to them were such as these: Will you pray for the King? Will you own the King’s authority? Will you take the Test, the oath of allegiance, the oath of abjuration, etc.? With true Christian heroism, as we have hitherto supposed, they answered, No; “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.”
True, indeed, if the doctrines that are obtaining currency in the Covenanted Church of the present day, are correct, we shall be under the necessity of reconsidering this verdict, and readjusting their place on the roll of those entitled to our admiration and honor. The corollary of the doctrine to which we refer, will be: Poor, deluded, miserable men! No doubt you were conscientious in your way, and meant well. But it was your misfortune to have lived prior to A.D. 1864; at which date the unparalleled discovery, hidden from former ages and generations, was made by a Professor of Theology of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, viz.: that God, through or by Noah, entered into a covenant with reprobate men and communities, called the Noachic Covenant, by which the most perfect right, as in God’s sight was secured to just such impious, beastly, satanic governments as those of the royal brothers which you disowned and repudiated, not only to exist, but to defend, establish and perpetuate themselves. The Covenanted Church has heretofore honored you as confessors and martyrs of Jesus; but in the clearer light of this recent and grand discovery, we now learn you were, at best, only a set of silly men, thus foolishly and wickedly to throw away your lives in refusing to acknowledge the authority of the then existing governments as anything more than pretended, when, it appears, they had in reality the most incontrovertible, God-given right to be regarded as valid, even though the unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by them had been, beyond comparison, greater than they were. Infatuated men! victims of a fearful delusion!! you were not fit to be abroad without strait-jackets!!!
Seriously, however, we venture to hazard the opinion that the memory of these noble heroes and martyrs will be cherished, their names honored, and their principles revived and predominant, when, if he persist in his course, the name of their virtual defamer and reviler shall have passed into merited oblivion. And with one voice, they declare against military, and all other unitive associations with the ungodly.
11. The Sanquhar Declaration, Aug. 10, 1692, in which the faithful Covenanters disowned the authority and government of William and Mary, and testified against the unfaithfulness of ministers.
“We testify and declare against the unparalleled unfaithfulness of the ministers of Scotland, * * * to the souls of their Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Orange, in not representing to them the hazard they were and would be in, if they entered themselves heirs to the sins of that throne, against which the Lord hath such a long and eminent controversy, etc. * * * If he should cleave unto these men as his trusty counsellors, etc. * * * And if he should settle a peace with God’s avowed and declared enemies, etc. * * * And if he should employ, help, concur or join with anti-Christian forces, either at home or abroad. All which he hath done, and this day is doing, etc.”
“And next, their unfaithfulness to the poor guilty land, in not foreseeing the evil, and foreshowing the danger, setting up magistrates without asking counsel at the mouth of the Lord, etc. * * * Nor yet declaring the sin and danger of associating in war with known enemies of truth and godliness, such as are employed in the present expedition: whereby a door is opened for the introduction, toleration, and encouragement of Papists, Malignants, and Sectaries. And the state of the quarrel, instead of being rightly proposed, according to the ancient plea, against both right and left hand opposites, is thereby betrayed, lost, and buried.”
12. Sanquhar Declaration, Nov. 6, 1695, in which they bewail confederacies and compliances with Christ’s enemies.
“What abominable conjunction and confederacies with the Lord’s inveterate enemies, the very old props, pillars, and limbs of Antichrist!” “A palpable changing the good old quarrel of this Covenanted Kingdom, for pursuing the ends of our Covenant, to the espousing, confederating, and joining with a contrary party, viz.: a popish, prelatic, malignant, and sectarian party, with their cause, interests and designs, and venturing our stock in one vessel with them, and casting in our lot with them. And to use the like words of the General Assembly, July, ult. 1648, Sess. 21, ‘It is a joining hands with a white devil, to beat a black devil,’ a course that hath been always cursed to us of God, and hath often cost this land very dear, in itself most sinful and unlawful. And besides, a violation of our solemn oaths and engagements, a backsliding from our former covenanted principles and professions, and a walking contrary to the whole tenor of the former resolutions and practices of this Church, when glorious to all beholders, and terrible to her enemies, and when the Lord delighted in us, and our land was married to him, and salvation was written upon our walls, and praise in our gates.” * * * “Wherefore as we do profess the sorrow of our hearts, so we do declare before God, angels and men, that we abhor, renounce, detest, protest and testify against all such principles and practices, and that we design not to concur in, nor any way assist such, lest we partake in other men’s sins, and so receive of their plagues: but by the grace and assistance of Christ, steadfastly resolve to suffer the utmost, rather than put forth our hands to iniquities. And withal, here we do declare our firm resolution to adhere to our Covenants and engagements: whereby we are bound to have common friends and foes with our Covenanted Reformation, and to look upon what is done to one, done to all of us.”
13. Their protestation at Sanquhar, May 21, 1703, emitted upon the accession of Queen Anne, and in which they refuse to acknowledge her authority.
“As also, we must declare, for the vindication of ourselves, and undeceiving of our neighbor nations, that since they despise that union whereby we were acceptable to God, and glorious to the world, we protest and testify against any other union, not founded on that basis, with them. And to inform them that it is our fears, that their aiming at any other union, will be but a confederacy against God, and bring ruin upon us all.”
Having specified various Acts of Parliament, in favor of reformation, and ratifying the deeds of the Church, they add: “Which Acts, if they had been kept, as they were materially sworn to, would have kept places of power and trust, both high and low, civil, ecclesiastic, and military, from being filled with persons of corrupt principles and practices, as they too long have been; and have supplied them with these according to the standard of God’s word: whereby religion, liberty, and property would have been preserved entire at home; and we would have been kept from any unlawful Anti-christian confederacies abroad, the shame of our once otherwise covenanted nation, etc.”
14. The Protestation and Testimony of the United Societies, on the occasion of the incorporating union with England, published Oct. 2, 1707.
“How offensive and displeasing unto God this accursed union is, may be further evident by its involving this land in a sinful conjunction and association with prelates, malignants, and many other enemies to God and godliness, and stated adversaries to our reformation of religion, and sworn-to principles in our Covenants, National and Solemn League: And particularly as this union embodies and unites us in this land in the strictest conjunction and association with England, a land so deeply already involved in the breach of Covenant, and pestered with so many sectaries, errors, and abominable practices, and joins us in issue and interest with these that are tolerators, maintainers, and defenders of these errors which the word of God prohibits, 2 Chron. 19:2; Isai. 8:12, etc., and our sacred Covenants plainly and expressly abjure. And further, how far and deeply it engages this land in a confederacy and association with God’s enemies at home and abroad, in their expeditions and councils: a course so often; prohibited by God in his word, and visibly plagued in many remarkable instances of providences, as may be seen both in sacred and historical records; and the unlawfulness thereof, on just and scriptural grounds, demonstrated by famous divines even of our own Church and Nation, and set down as a cause of God’s wrath against this Church and Kingdom.”
15. Their Declarations in the Auchensaugh renovation of the Covenants, July 24, 1712.
In the acknowledgment of sins, they confess: “A want of constant endeavors to preserve from the doctrine of this reformed Church; and that ever since that fatal distraction of public resolution, principles began to creep into this Church, which corrupted people in that doctrine of abstaining from association with malignants, and enemies to truth and godliness.”
In the acknowledgment of sins, pertaining to the breach of the Second Article of the Solemn League, they say: “And albeit this land, yea, whole Britain and Ireland, were purged of Popery, yet cannot we be said to have made conscience of performing this part of the oath of God, while there is a confederating with Papists abroad, and fighting in their quarrel.”
Further, they say: “There hath been too much both of sinful union and confederacy in terms prejudicial to truth; as our joining in the Angus regiment at the Revolution, and our guarding and supplicating that corrupt Convention of Estates, etc.”
“It was the land’s sin that they continued still to own the authority of Charles II., when opposite to, and destructive of religion and liberty: and of those who appeared in arms at Pentland and Bothwell Bridge, that they put in his interest (with application of the words of the Covenant to him, though stated in opposition to it) into the state of the quarrel, in their declaration of war, for which, (so far as the godly could discern,) the Lord put them to shame and went not forth with their armies.”
It was their sin, they say again, that “many did associate with them (i.e., malignants, etc. in expeditions of war, drawing up with them in their musters and rendezvouses, thereby countenancing a malignant cause, and listing themselves under a malignant—yea, popish banner.”
In an excellent Introduction to the Auchensaugh renovation of the Covenants, written by Thomas Henderson, and dated Kilmacolm, Dec. 24, 1819, he says: “As the sword of persecution was now sheathed, and external peace restored, it was natural to desire ease and quiet; and those who should have been examples to the little flock of Christ, proved a snare to them. The truth of the Prophet’s declaration was verified—‘The leaders of this people cause them to err.’ Their public teachers, Messrs. Shields, Linning, and Boyd, carried them down the stream of defection, and seduced them into a sinful compliance with the evils of the times, 1. They encouraged them to take up arms to guard the Convention of Estates, many of the members of which had their hands deeply imbued in the blood of God’s dear saints during the persecution. 2. They enticed them to raise the Angus regiment, and to join in a military association with malignants to a covenanted work of reformation, contrary to their professed principles, and to the express prohibition of Scripture—‘Say ye not a confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, a confederacy.’ Many of them repented of this action afterwards, and blamed Mr. Shields to his face for leading them into it.”
16. Act, Declaration, and Testimony of the Reformed Presbytery, emitted June 6, 1761.
The Presbytery testify against the incorporating union of this nation with England, and as being a union founded upon an open violation of all the Articles of the Solemn League and Covenant still binding upon the nations; and consequently, destructive of that uniformity in religion, once happily attained to by them: which will at first view appear, by comparing the Articles of the union with those of the Solemn League. All associations and confederacies with the enemies of true religion and godliness, are expressly condemned in Scripture, and represented as dangerous to the true Israel of God: Isai. 8:12, Jer. 2:28, Ps. 106:35, Hos. 5:13, and 7:8,11; 2 Cor. 6:14,15. And if simple confederacies with malignants and enemies to the cause of Christ are condemned, much more is an incorporation with them, which is an embodying of two into one, and therefore a straiter conjunction. And taking the definition of malignants, given by the declaration of both Kingdoms joined in arms, anno 1643, to be just, which says, ‘Such as would not take the Covenant, were declared to be public enemies to their religion and country, and that they are to be censured and punished, as professed adversaries and malignants,’ it cannot be refused, but that the prelatical party in England, now joined with, are such.” Old Scot[tish]. Tes[timony]., page 68.
“The Presbytery testify against both Church and State, for their sinful associations with malignants; as declared enemies to the covenanted interest, have engrossed the civil power wholly to their hands, since the public resolutions, that a door was opened for their admission; so, such is the nature of the laws presently extant, and in force, that one cannot be admitted to any office, civil or military, but by swearing away all friendship to a covenanted reformation. And, moreover, all along since the late Revolution, the nations have been the most earnest pursuing after friendship with the grossest idolaters; and, in express contradiction to the word of God, have confederated in the closest alliance with God’s declared enemies abroad; nay, have exhausted their strength and substance, in maintaining the quarrel of such as have been remarkable for their hatred at, and persecution of, the Protestant interest. The Revolution Church has also said a confederacy with such as have, on all occasions, showed a rooted enmity and hatred at reformation principles: which appears from their admitting such, noticed above, to be office bearers in the Church: from their observing fasts, and praying for success to the allied armies, though almost wholly composed of such, and many of them oftentimes gross papist idolaters, etc.” Page 77.
“Particularly, they testify against praying for success and prosperity to such, (viz., Anti-scriptural, Anti-covenanted, and Erastian Governments,) in their stated opposition to the Lord and his Anointed, or in any form implying a homologation of their title as lawful; swearing oaths of fidelity and allegiance to such; accepting any office from such, and executing these in their name and authority under them; military associations with such, by a voluntary enlisting under their banner, and fighting for their support and establishment. And that in regard these are actions, as they express a proper and explicit owning of the lawfulness of that authority, which they immediately respect, so they are such as cannot be obtained without the actual consent of the party performing, and must therefore imply a deliberate approbation of foresaid iniquitous authority.”
“And while they are to take care to do nothing that justly implies their consent to the continued opposition made unto the covenanted reformation, yet they ought to observe a proper difference between such actions and things as are necessary, and in themselves just and lawful by a moral obligation, and those that are not so. As also, between that which cannot be had, nor the value or equivalent of it, unless the person actually give it; and that which may be obtained, whether he actually contribute to it or not.”
“Prayers for God’s blessing on any government—enlisting and bearing arms in their service—accepting offices and places of power from them—swearing oaths of fidelity to them, etc.—are such things as can by no means be got, nor yet the equivalent of them, unless the party actually consents and grants them. These; therefore, and such like, are the only instances of action which, the Presbytery judge, do, in their own nature, contain and express a proper and explicit acknowledgment of the lawfulness of that authority which they immediately respect.” Pages 163,164, and 165.
17. The present Scottish Testimony, adopted 1839.
We find in this a general approbation and commendation of the Old Testimony of 1761, from which we have quoted above. They say of it:
“It has proved, by the divine blessing, a most valuable and efficient instrument in explaining, vindicating, and recommending the principles of the Covenanted Reformation, not only in Scotland and Ireland, but in the United States of America.”
They declare: “Many of the Acts of the Scottish Parliament during the Reformation period, were, in our judgment, eminently calculated to promote the interests of true religion. As being of this character, we would specify, * * * a variety of Acts passed in the year 1649, for suppressing vice and profaneness, for excluding from places of power and trust, both in the civil and military departments of the State, men of immoral lives, or who were known to be inimical to the reformed religion.”
“In the alliances contracted with foreign nations, political expediency alone appears to have guided the policy of the British Government for ages. It does not seem to have entered into the conceptions of the rulers, that to form leagues with Anti-christian powers, the tendency of which was to strengthen and preserve the reign of Popery on the Continent, or to give stability to a general system of government throughout Europe inimical to true religion and to the liberties of mankind, was an act of rebellion against God, and that in doing so, they were expressly placing Britain in the position of those kingdoms of which it is predicted that they would be of one mind, and give their strength and power to the beast.”
After declaring that a minority of Christian men, dissenting from a civil constitution, have no warrant to disturb the peace of society, by offering physical opposition to government, when they are suffered to live in peace, and the sacred rights of conscience are not invaded; and affirming their duty to live quiet and peaceable lives, etc., they add:
“But we account allegiance to be something of a much higher character—an expression of attachment and loyalty—a pledge of desire and endeavor for the permanence and stability of the system to which it is rendered. Our views of the character of the civil institutions of these lands as formerly explained, and a dread of having fellowship in the guilt of Antichrist, forbid us to render such allegiance.”
“Members of our Church cannot * * * compose a part of the executive government, by holding offices under the crown, civil or military, which might require them to co-operate in carrying into practice any branch of an unscriptural code of law.”
18. Our own American Testimony, by necessary implication, in approving the Protesters and condemning the Resolutioners.
“Such was the state of parties in Scotland, when the army appointed to support the young King and his people, under the conduct of General Leslie, was defeated at Dunbar, by Oliver Cromwell. The King was pleased at this defeat. It afforded an argument for the admission of the Malignants, who were known enemies to Cromwell, into the army which defended Scotland. By private intrigue, this impious Monarch and these Malignants formed plans for the overthrow of the Constitution. They professed reformation; they were admitted to military power; they took the oaths of office, and were admitted into the Councils of State. Their hypocrisy did not however deceive all the friends of the Reformation interest. There were many faithful men who considered their penitence as mockery, their submission to church discipline for their immorality as hypocrisy, and their oath as perjury. The most faithful ministers and Presbyteries opposed the admission of these Malignants into communion, and the most virtuous politicians opposed their admission to civil office. Presbyterians were thus, by the impious cunning of their enemies, divided among themselves. Those who favored the Malignants were called Resolutioners, and those who opposed them, Protesters. This division produced the ruin of the civil Constitution, and prepared the way for that persecution which soon destroyed the Church.”
“The disputes between the Resolutioners and the Protesters were still agitated with a vehemence which distracted the Church. The most faithful ministers were of the protesting party. They condemned the resolutions which admitted into church communion, and into civil and military power, the Malignants. * * * They raged it upon the public mind as an important maxim, that no enemy of the civil Constitution should be entrusted with a share in its administration. They exposed the folly and the madness of bestowing military power upon the inveterate enemies of religion, liberty, and law. They fortified these declarations by judicious arguments from the Scriptures.” (Ed. 1861, pages 71,72,73.)
The manner in which they fortified their declarations by scriptural arguments will appear from previous quotations. And we may add here: the Protesters and Resolutioners were, as we have seen, entirely united in sentiment as to the propriety and necessity of resisting Cromwell. The Protestors felt and acknowledged, as well as the Resolutioners, that every consideration, whether of duty, or interest, or honor, imperatively demanded that the invader should be met by the most vigorous and determined opposition. The ascendancy and free exercise of their religion, which had cost them so much, and was so dear to their hearts, as well as the liberties of the kingdom, were at stake. None questioned the lawfulness of the enterprise. All believed that to succumb to the usurper without a resort to arms would constitute a base betrayal of the most important interests ever confided to the keeping of man, and justly subject them to the charge of, at once, proving false to God, to their country, and to themselves. The only question that divided them was, who shall be permitted to participate in so righteous, so necessary, and so laudable an undertaking? Who shall be allowed to draw the sword, to hurl back the invader from the soil, and secure the lives and homes, the religion and liberties of the people? The Resolutioners replied, All able-bodied men, who will lend us the aid of their strong arms, in this hour of peril. The Protesters insisted, Only such as are of a blameless and Christian conversation, the open professed friends of truth and godliness. And hence, to approve of the Protesters, is, by necessary consequence, emphatically to condemn all military associations with the ungodly, however just and lawful, considered in itself may be the object of the war, in which it is proposed to engage.
19. The testimony of George Gillespie.
We subjoin Mr. Gillespie’s testimony, as giving expression to the views of the Church of Scotland in his own day, viz., the period of the Second Reformation; and also as affording a clear exhibition of the principles embraced, defended, and disseminated by the Protesters when he was sleeping in the dust; as well as of the sentiments of the persecuted faithful remnant who, through the extremest sufferings, adhered to the Reformation, and of the true Reformed Presbyterian Covenanted Church ever since.
And to give this testimony of Mr. Gillespie the weight its real character and importance demands, especially now, that the scriptural and just views, therein developed and insisted on, are very generally discarded, by professors of every name, as fanatical, impracticable, and absurd, our Church has lent it the sanction of its recommendation in the following certification: “Two very judicious dissertations against associations with Malignants were published and circulated, the one written some time before by the famous Mr. Gillespie, and the other composed by Mr. Binning.” His[torical]. Test[imony]., page 73.
The question Mr. Gillespie discusses in this very judicious dissertation, as stated by himself, is, “Whether a confederacy and association with wicked men, or such as are of another religion, be lawful, yea, or not.” He proceeds to say: “For answers whereunto shortly, let us distinguish: 1. Civil Covenants. 2. Ecclesiastical, sacred or religious Covenants. 3. Mixed Covenants, partly civil, partly religious. The last two being made with wicked men, and such as differ in religion with us, I hold to be unlawful, and so do the best writers.” * * * “As for Civil Covenants, if they be for commerce or peace, which were called spondai, they are allowed according to the Scriptures. Gen. 14:13. Gen. 31:44, and 1 Kings, 5:12. Jer. 29:7. Rom. 12:18” “As we ought to pray, and endeavor that all who are Christ’s may be made one in him, so we ought to pray against, and by all means avoid, fellowship, familiarity, marriages, and military confederacies with known wicked persons, and such as are of a false or heretical religion. I shall branch forth this matter in five particulars, which God forbade to his people, in reference to the Canaanites and other heathens, which also, (partly by parity of reason, partly by concluding more strongly,) will militate against confederacies and conjunctions with such as, under the profession of the Christian religion, either maintain heresies and dangerous errors, or live a profane and wicked life.”
After dwelling upon the first four particulars, he adds: “Fifthly. The law is also to be applied against civil covenants, not of peace or of commerce, but of war; that is, a league offensive and defensive, wherein we associate ourselves with idolaters, infidels, heretics, or any other known enemies of truth or godliness, so as to have the same friends or enemies. A Covenant of peace or commerce with such may happen to be unlawful, in respect of some circumstances, as when peace is given to those rebels, murderers, or incendiaries in the kingdom, who, by the law of God, ought to be destroyed by the hand of justice; or when commerce with idolaters is so abused, as to furnish them with the things that they are known to make use of in their idolatry. But as for Summachia, a confederacy engaging us into war with such associates, it is absolutely and in its own nature unlawful: and I find it condemned by good writers, both of the Popish party, of the Lutheran party, and of the Orthodox party.”
“I had been but very short in the handling of this question, if new objections coming to my ears had not drawn me forth to this length. And now I find one objection more. Some say, the arguments before brought from Scripture prove not the unlawfulness of confederacies and association with idolaters, heretics or profane persons of the same kingdom, but only with those of another kingdom. Ans. 1. Then, by the concession of those who make the objection, it is at least unlawful to associate ourselves with any of another kingdom, who are of a false religion, or wicked life. 2. If familiar fellowship, even with the wicked of the same kingdom, be unlawful, then is a military association with them unlawful; for it cannot be without consulting, conferring, conversing frequently together. It were a profane abusing and mocking of Scripture to say that we are forbidden to converse familiarly with the ungodly of another kingdom, but not with the ungodly of the same kingdom; or that we are forbidden to marry with the ungodly of another kingdom, but not with the ungodly of the same kingdom; for what is this but to open a wide gate upon the one hand, while we seem to shut a narrow gate upon the other hand? 3. Were not those military associations, 2 Chron. 19:2, and 25:7,8, condemned upon this reason, because the associates were ungodly, haters of the Lord, and because God was not with them? Now then, a quatenus ad omne. The reason holds equally against associations with any of whom it can be truly said, they are ungodly, haters of the Lord, and God is not with them. 4. God would have the camp of Israel altogether holy and clean. Deut. 23:9-14. Clean from whom? Not so much from wicked heathens, (there was not so much fear of that) as from wicked Israelites. 5. Saith not Da[vid], ‘I will early destroy all the wicked of the land,’ Ps. 101:8; and, ‘Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity, Ps. 6:9? How can it then be imagined that he would make any of them his associates and helpers in war?”
Deeply concerned for the welfare of the Church of Christ, perceiving clearly the powerful, far-reaching influence, for good or for evil, of this grand truth he had labored so earnestly to elucidate, and desirous of impressing the minds of others with a proper sense of its vast, importance, this eminently pious and learned reformer wrote, two days before his death, as follows:
“I recommend to them that fear God, sadly and seriously to consider that the holy Scriptures doth plainly hold forth: 1. That the helping of the enemies of God, or joining and mingling with wicked men, is a sin highly displeasing. 2. That this sin hath ordinarily ensnared God’s people into divers other sins. 3. That it hath been punished of God with grievous judgments. 4. That utter destruction is to be feared, when a people, after great mercies and judgments, relapse into this sin. Ezra, 9:13,14.”
“Upon these and the like grounds, for my own exoneration, that so necessary a trust wants not the testimony of a dying witness of Christ, also, the unworthiest among many thousands; and that light may be held forth, and warning given, I cannot be silent at this time, but speak by my pen when I cannot by my tongue, yea, now also by the pen of another when I cannot by my own, seriously, in the name of Jesus Christ, exhorting and obtesting all that fear God and make conscience of their ways, to be very tender and circumspect, to watch and pray that they be not ensnared in that great, dangerous sin of conjunction or compliance with malignant or profane enemies of the truth, under whatsoever prudential considerations it may be varnished over; which, if some will do, and trust God in his own way, they shall not only not repent it, but to the greater joy and peace of God’s people, they shall see his work go on, and prosper gloriously.”
The only exception, so far as we know, to the above views, in any public document sanctioned by the witnessing Church, is found in our Historical Testimony, pages 127 and 128. Speaking of the War of 1812, it is said: “Reformed Presbyterians generally thought it their duty to aid in the defense of their country, as they believed there was just cause for the declaration of war.” * * * * “A spirit of patriotism was manifested among the Reformed Presbyterians in all their congregations. While they refused to bind themselves in sinful oaths, they were willing to expend their property, employ their influence, and risk their lives, in defense of their country.”
If these passages are intended, as it is presumed they are, to express approbation of Covenanters taking up arms and mingling with the forces of the nation—a confessedly ungodly one—in defending, establishing, and perpetuating the civil institutions of the land, they are utterly and irreconcilably at variance, not only with other parts of the testimony itself, but with the entire teaching and practice of the witnessing Church, from the Reformation till that time.
And it is the more remarkable to find sanction given to members of the Church uniting in the military enterprises of the nation, considering the almost fatal consequences to the Church of such association, only a few years earlier. Reviewing the period of the American Revolution, and its effect upon the Church, it is said:
“Great national revolutions produce a current of popular opinion, which it requires firmness of mind in any man to resist. The Covenanters in America perceived with joy the United States rising in a body to resist the arm which had been uplifted for their oppression. Their expectations of immediate advantage to the Church, however, were too sanguine. Their love of liberty exceeded its due bounds. Many of them were carried away from their former principles; and, during the American war, the Reformed Presbytery was dissolved. The three ministers already, mentioned.” (viz.: Messrs. Cuthbertson, Linn, and Dobbin), “joined with some ministers of the Associate Church in communion, and formed that Society which now bears the name of the Associate Reformed Church.”
“The Church was in danger of becoming entirely extinct in America, about four years after the defection took place, which contributed to the organization of the Associate Reformed body.” His[torical]. Tes[timony]. pages 105,108.
And now, after the lapse of three-quarters of a century, for similar reasons, viz.: a strong current of popular opinion, and a national crisis and revolution, the Church is again in like danger of dissolution and extinction, if not in name, at least in reality.
We have thus, from the period at which we commenced our inquiries, viz.: the Second Reformation, an unbroken line of testimony, uniform and emphatic, against military association or other unitive confederacies with the ungodly, so distinct, satisfactory, and conclusive, as to leave on this point absolutely almost nothing to be desired. Whatever may be the opinions of men as to the merits of the question, whether it be right or wrong to unite in military enterprises with the profane and wicked, it does not admit of controversy or doubt that our Covenanted fathers, both in theory and practice, unhesitatingly gave their voice against them. Some of them, indeed, were at times seduced by urgent solicitations and plausible pretexts, into such sinful compliances and associations. But many, even of those who were thus led astray, came afterwards to see their mistake, to acknowledge their error, and deplore their sin; and the current of the Church’s testimony against this aggravated evil was never suffered to be interrupted for a moment.
But what do we see now? Men, intoxicated with the cup of the world’s favor, eager for the world’s applause, and wandering, with great admiration, after this American beast; but forgetful of the precepts of the divine law, and unmindful of the respect due to the faithful, reforming, and martyred fathers, apparently firmly resolved, despite all warning, and entreaty, and remonstrance, upon engulfing the Church in the quagmire of military confederacy with the ungodly. And the moment this is thoroughly accomplished, the witnessing Church here is virtually and practically no more.
We know it is pretended that such association does not identify or incorporate with the nation, to the extent that voting, or taking part in the political affairs of the nation, does. But we also know that the distinction attempted is a deceitful and utterly groundless one; the relation to the government effected by military connection with it, being the very closest and most intimate possible.
Who does not perceive that if members of the Church are given to understand that, in entire consistency with their principles, they may risk their lives and shed their blood on the battle-field, to defend and perpetuate the Constitution of Government here established, it will be impossible to convince or convict them of wrong or inconsistency in going to the ballot-box, for the purpose of choosing men to administer it properly? The objection that a direct oath, either in our own person, or in the person of our representative, is required in the one case, and not in the other, is, even if true, of no avail here. For, if it be right to risk our all, and use our utmost efforts in fighting to sustain it, it cannot be wrong to swear to support it. The cases are parallel, in that, in either instance, there is a pledge, either expressed or implied, of fidelity to, and a desire for, the perpetuation of, the established government, and we cannot, if true to our principles, either directly or indirectly, pledge fidelity to, or desire the perpetuation of, any system of government hostile to, or in rebellion against, Christ. The one is the same in principle as the other. And as certainly as any cause is followed by its legitimate effect, so certainly will teaching men to identify in fighting, lead them to identify also in voting. Nor can sophistry so wrap it up us to conceal this from the simplest reasoning powers, as the plain, logical consequence. Indeed, if reports are true, we see it practically exemplified on a large scale already. Yet this is only the beginning of the end.
Friends of the witnessing Church! our testimony is in danger. God has given us a banner to be displayed because of truth. Rally around it. Let it be upheld at all hazards. It will, of course, be tormenting to the men that dwell on the earth; and not less so to lukewarm, false-hearted, hypocritical professors in the Church. Nevertheless, unfurl it to the breeze, and raise it resolutely aloft, inscribed with the ancient motto: “For Christ’s Crown and Covenant.” The task, true, is an ungracious one, and the peril great. “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” “The beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them” (i.e., the two witnesses), “and shall overcome them and kill them.” But, witnesses for Christ! fear not. Make no truce with the enemy. Yield to no solicitations to worship either the beast or his image. Refuse his mark, either in your foreheads or in your hands. Though your work be difficult and dangerous, the power of God is pledged for your support, the victory is certain, and the reward ample. “I will give power unto my two witnesses.” “Gad, a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last.” Though the two witnesses are themselves overcome and killed, yet the ultimate issue is, “they overcame him” (viz.: Satan with all their foes under his leadership) “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” “There is no man that has left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come, life everlasting.”
Consider the peril so narrowly escaped by the Church by sinful military confederacy with the nation, at the period of the Revolution. Remember the sad consequences of similar association in the War of 1812, as manifested in the New Light exfoliation. Mark the divine goodness in still preserving a witnessing Church. And now, may we not adopt the words of Ezra, as peculiarly appropriate to our condition? “After all that is come upon us, for our evil deeds and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this. Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations, wouldst not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?”